A Glance into Game #2 – Titans @ Browns
Following their annual opening day loss (which is now an NFL record of eleven consecutive), the Browns get to play their first home game of the season. It would once again appear that this is a very winnable contest for the orange and brown against a rookie signal caller. However, they made Ryan Fitzpatrick look like a Hall of Famer in the opener. I expect the team to display some improvement; will it be enough to secure their first win?
Quarterback – As of now, it looks like Johnny Manziel is in line to get the nod under center (while Josh McCown recovers from his concussion). I actually felt a little bit of confidence in the little guy last contest; that was never the case in 2014. He still had severe issues with controlling the ball – hopefully the Jets’ game was the first step towards his improved pocket awareness. I expect one touchdown and just one turnover by the second year pro.
Running Back – I am mystified and really don’t know what to make out of the Browns’ rushing attack (and I use that term loosely). In the chicken-or-egg debate, neither the offensive line nor running backs are doing their jobs effectively during running attempts. I am not sure what’s it going to take for Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson to get it going, but the team might want to figure that out – and soon.
Wide Receiver – Is Travis Benjamin becoming the number one wide out for this team? It would appear so, as the veteran had a solid exhibition season and carried that over thus far by leading the team in receiving yards (including the team’s only touchdown). Obviously he is not a guy who should be used in jump ball situations, but utilizing his speed is his strong suit. I would not be surprised if either Taylor Gabriel or Andrew Hawkins had a few grabs in this matchup.
Tight End – This position group was pretty much invisible in New Jersey, and that will likely be a running theme all season long. Rookie E.J. Bibbs looks like he can bring something to the table; once he is ready for regular season football. I hope that time comes soon – I want to see multiple downfield attempts (and completions) to the tight ends. Who knows, maybe this unit can even become a reliable red zone threat.
Offensive Line – Could Cameron Erving be the difference in transforming the gang upfront from an underachieving one to one of the better lines in the league? It’s unlikely, as pretty much all five guys have struggled at one point or another. The coaching staff needs to do whatever it takes to witness success. Perhaps more three-step drops could replace rushing attempts and problematic run blocking.
Defensive Line – Stopping the run has been something that has evaded the Cleveland Browns for some time, and I would be surprised if that did not continue. Sunday “Words into action” has been the mantra from Mike Pettine about this team, and they have not lived up to this (at least in the run stuffing department). I would love to see the starters dominate at the point of attack and make it hard for Bishop Sankey to move down the field – but they cannot have a performance like they did in the second half of last contest.
Linebacker – This part of the roster was up there for biggest disappointment in the season opener. Sure there were a couple of nice plays, but the defense generated zero pass rush and could not corral rushers closer to the line of scrimmage. Scott Solomon’s ankle injury didn’t help either – will Barkevious Mingo start to resemble the first round pick that many had hoped? Confusion for the Titans’ offense must begin and end with the Browns’ linebackers; I expect a couple of sacks and turnovers.
Secondary – I think Joe Haden would be the first guy to tell you that he underachieved last week. He will have a bounce back performance at home, while the other guys should continue to excel as well. Tashun Gipson admitted being stripped after his interception lingered with him the rest of the contest; if he wants to secure that long-term deal he’s got to be stronger physically and mentally. Some interceptions off a rookie quarterback would be a welcomed sight for this team.
Special Teams: Knock on wood, but the special teams have been a solid part of this roster. I have no questions about Andy Lee and Travis Coons doing their jobs exceptionally . Who knows, maybe we will even see a few nice returns by the Browns as well (hopefully there are more punt returns and less kickoff returns).
Coaching: Granted the offensive game plan was pretty much thrown out after the McCown injury last week, but the coaching staff did their best to adjust to Manziel under center. I would like to see this be further reinforced, in addition to reducing the potential of a costly turnover. Defensively, it’s all about the blitz – the Browns need to come hard and often towards Marcus Mariota. I have a feeling he can come back to Earth following his great opener.
Prediction (My Record 0 – 1): I have no idea what to think about this outcome. I believe the Browns will be much better than what they showed in the season opener. However, the Titans looked great – and that is enough to pick them to win this game by the score of 19 – 16.